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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Referendum is not about the Safe Status Quo vs the Terrifying Unknown

Europhiles are accused of exploiting Project Fear to frighten the UK electorate into remaining with the devil we know instead of taking a leap into uncharted waters. What they are doing is very much worse: they have a vision of ever closer union, a bigger and ‘better’ EU (including, perhaps Turkey), with a European army and diplomatic corps, with a bigger, more powerful and more meddlesome bureaucracy. No status quo is on offer. By ‘remaining’ in the EU we are padlocking ourselves to the seats of a coach which is going somewhere we don’t want to be. Not included in the vision is the empirical fact that the EU is shrinking as a fraction of world GDP. A shrinking economy laced with an expanding bureaucracy is a toxic cocktail.

The EU in its present incarnation is bad enough: antidemocratic, corrupt and sclerotic. Even if it were risky to do so, we should break free. But it is, in effect, not just shrinking but sinking.

At some point, well into the Voyage of the Kon Tiki, each of the mariners separately noticed that the balsa wood logs of which the craft was built were becoming saturated. It was possible, with their fingers, to break off pieces. Thrown into the Pacific, these pieces sank. How far, each man wondered, had the brine penetrated? Each man kept his worries to himself. The process was clearly ongoing. Nothing was to be gained by sharing the anxiety. Fortunately, they reached their destination before the vessel slipped beneath the waves. Fortunately, for us, the coming referendum gives us an opportunity to save ourselves.

The prospects, as the incomparable Dan Hannan reminds us, are very bright.

A statistic I never tire of repeating is this: Since 1970 the number of people living in dire poverty has declined by 80%. This is unprecedented in world history. Many millions thitherto poor are now affluent.

I lived in Taiwan from 1950 to 1960. Many Taiwanese were very poor. It is now a prosperous country. The reasons for this dramatic improvement in living standards are: globalisation, free trade and market economies. In relative terms the EU is witnessing a decline. The Euro has been a disaster for Southern Europe. Greece, the most terrible example, is now home to millions who are much poorer than they were a generation ago.

The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy and its fourth largest military power. We are influential in NATO and we have a seat on the Security Council. The EU depends upon us to import from them. We are a major player on the world stage. Our language is the most widely spoken. Much of the world owes us for democratic institutions adopted from us; likewise our sublime system of common law.

When the reptilian Edward Heath took us into what was then the Common Market, he did so on the basis of a lie. He knew that Europe’s future was avowedly political and he denied it. What a tragedy that we did not build upon the Anglo-sphere instead. Our shared traditions of liberty are not as deeply rooted in Bulgaria as in Canada, in Belgium as in Connecticut.

I wish Bulgarians and Belgians well. If they like the Ever Closer Union charabanc, good luck to them. But I want to get off.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mental Illness Etc

No, this is not about Donald Trump or even about Ben Carson’s endorsement of him. It’s not about Cameron’s attempt to infect us with paranoia. These issues should concern us; but there is something more insidious going on among the chattering classes: an unhealthy obsession with inequality, which amounts to a phobia.

Milton Friedman, a great, though not the greatest, economist of the twentieth century, famously observed that a society which puts equality before liberty will end with neither. And it will be poorer than a society with these aspirations reversed. Let us pause to reflect that poverty is a very great evil and that the only cure is wealth (ie greater production). Let us also remember that the last half century has witnessed an increase in wealth, unprecedented in the history of our species. It has come about as a result of increased economic liberty in many countries. Life expectancy has shot up. Infant mortality has plummeted. Diet has improved in quantity and quality. Liberty, specialisation, trade and globalisation have done this. And yet…

And yet, Wilson and Picket took it into their heads to ignore History and to write a dismal book, The Spirit Level, which purported to show that more equality leads to greater happiness. It is a book filled with statistical howlers, well documented by Christopher Snowdon and others. My purpose is not to deplore bad maths but wilful blindness. At the very moment Marx was inveighing against Capitalism and predicting the simultaneous growth of monopolies and shrinking wages, the people of this country were seeing the growth of wages and competition lowering prices. The Devil is a Liar and the Father of lies.

And then there is Thomas Piketty, well debunked, in my not-very-humble opinion.
For something over two hundred years, parallel experiments have been going on in this global laboratory. One group uses force to distribute scarce resources. The other group advocates the protection of private property and the rule of law with a view to increasing production (ie wealth). The results are in and unarguable. The ultimate no brainer. The science really is settled, to coin a phrase.

I am revisiting this tired subject because I have just watched this video:

The island thought experiment, briefly: Imagine an island where people subsist on fish, which they catch with their hands, and on the fruit which they can gather. Two sets of ideas emerge about how to improve the situation. Some islanders build boats, fashion nets and hooks. Some set about clearing spaces on the island and cultivate edible plants. The rest go to the chief and demand that all available food should be shared out ‘fairly’. No brainer!

David Cameron’s Future

He was eventually forced to promise a referendum on our continued membership of the EU. Nigel Farage can take a lot of the credit for making this happen. Cameron is now campaigning against Brexit although many Eurosceptics are now emerging into the light. What will happen if we vote to leave, if Cameron loses? Methinks he will have to resign. If he had not revealed himself to be so spineless, he might have been more credible in re-negotiating our membership. It’s too late to change sides now. If Boris becomes PM, will he give Nigel a cabinet post?

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Even Better Fried Chicken

Start with a large bowl of oatmeal, salt, pepper, tarragon and crushed chillies. In another bowl mix a few eggs and add chicken pieces.

Dredge the chicken the in oatmeal and deep fry in sunflower oil for about five minutes

Try it and tell me this isn't the shortest and best recipe ever.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The US Election

It’s getting very depressing. Deeply depressing.

Donald Trump looks like getting the Republican nomination. Hillary Clinton looks like getting the Democrat nomination. The polls suggest that Hillary would win. Mine’s a pint of hemlock.

Perhaps the Republicans really are the stupid party. They don’t have that much time. Cruz, Rubio and Carson are not unintelligent men. They are all decent men with sound political visions; but they are staring into the abyss. They should be crapping themselves – I am. Are they talking to each other? Not apparently. United against Trump, they could (perhaps) deny him the nomination. United against Hillary, they might defeat her. This is their patriotic duty.

Reagan and Thatcher won the Cold War. There was moment of hope. The greatest threat to liberty and prosperity had been defeated. Their successors have thrown away the advantage they won. The threat from Islamo-fascism grows by the day. Obama is a joke. He has virtually guaranteed the Iranians the bomb. The world is more anti-American than ever. The federal government looks daily more like Detroit.

If Cruz, Rubio and Carson were to unite against Trump, he might lose the nomination. Rubio is the likeliest to defeat Hillary, though Cruz would be the better president. In my view, if C, R & C were true patriots, they would gang up on Trump. If they failed to knock him out, they would have done their duty. Disaster would follow: Hillary or Donald. In my view, Hillary would be marginally worse. She has no principles. The unpredictability of Trump might give the US an advantage in certain circumstances. I’ll drink to that! He would be more robust against ISIS. Cheers!

Carson is not going to be the next POTUS. He does, however, have enough moral authority to move things on. Perhaps he will be the kingmaker. Perhaps, in the long run, the saviour of America. She needs saving. The world needs America.

I can’t believe that Cruz, Rubio and Carson have not come to conclusions similar to mine. I can’t believe that they are not in touch with each other. They know that Trump would probably lose to Hillary. They know that Hillary would be a very bad president.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


Pessimists like to be wrong. Optimists hope to be right. Tonight is a night for optimists.
Of course, it all depends upon the outcome you want. I want the UK to leave the EU. I want the Republicans to win the US election.

In the latter case, things are moving my way. In brief, both Democrat contenders would be worse than catastrophic. Hillary Clinton is a liar and a cynical opportunist. She may be much worse, perhaps even a murderer. Sanders is an ideologue, with a bad ideology, a stupid ideology. Either would be a catastrophe. The example and history of Detroit ought to be enough to make either Democrat unelectable. Sadly, the Democrats, the party of the KKK, of slavery and Jim Crow do have supporters. They also have the New Deal and Johnson’s disastrous War on Poverty with which to contend. But enough Americans know so little History or Economics that even these episodes do not make Democrats unelectable. Obama should have done so but hasn’t.

My excitement (justified or not) is based upon Jeb Bush’s departure from the race. JB seems to me to be a decent human being, as are his brother and his father. None of the Bushes is politically laudable or interesting but Jeb’s exit does narrow the Republican field. Still remaining are Cruz and Rubio. Both are interesting and politically laudable conservatives. Both are decent human beings.

Regrettably, they are still attacking each other, but in a shrinking field they have an incentive to join forces. Together they could defeat Trump. Both should rejoice to exclude Trump, a man with no apparent ideology (principles) at all.

What I would like to see is a redefinition of the vice presidency. I would like the vice president to be in charge of foreign policy. Were this to be the case, the vice presidency would be a very much more attractive option for an ambitious politician. In the current situation, at least, Cruz and Rubio would divide power between them and this would render defeat of both Trump and Clinton easier.

Boris Johnson has wisely declared himself to be in favour of Brexit. It is the patriotic choice and could lead to a Boris premiership. The arguments in favour of our continued membership of the EU are pathetic. It costs us 55 million pounds per day to share decision making with a European political class which doesn’t like us and which wants our influence on world affairs to be attenuated.

A UK prime minister unshackled from the EU would be orders of magnitude more influential on the world stage than is Cameron at the present. We are the world’s fifth largest economy and we are a nuclear power. We are members of the Security Council. The idea that by pooling our influence we have increased it is as absurd as suggesting that Norway would gain parity with us by joining the EU.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Fried Chicken

It was great. The next batch will be better.

In principle, I favour skin on and bone in for any chicken dish. However, on this occasion I chose thigh fillets, cut in half, because I hoped (and I was right) the chicken would cook quickly and remain moist.

I marinated the chicken pieces in milk with a little salt and pepper. Buttermilk, perhaps with an egg or two, may be a superior option.

To two cups of ordinary flour I added a teaspoon of salt, a generous quantity of pepper, a tablespoon of garlic powder, two teaspoons of dried tarragon, two teaspoons of crushed chillies, two teaspoons of paprika. I suspect that more generous quantities of the flavourings will also work, maybe better.

I then coated each chicken piece with the flour mixture. A plastic bag may have been the way to go.

I heated sunflower oil in a pan. As it began to smoke, I dropped in chicken pieces and watched them cook. Three or four pieces per batch cooked in about five minutes and were transferred to a plate covered with kitchen roll. Delicious! I may treat myself to a deep-frier.

A Mistake:
I mixed the milk and the remains of the flour and used it to coat frozen broccoli, thinking to deep fry the broccoli. It didn’t work. It might have with unfrozen vegetables.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Politics – Practical Morality

I have been looking at some of the earlier posts on this blog and I came upon an assertion by me that Politics is practical morality and it struck me that a statist (or progressive) and a conservative (or libertarian) could mean very different things by this phrase.

For a Statist or a Progressive it could mean that Politics is (or should be) enacting legislation or regulations which do good things, things which the well-ordered conscience of an individual would dictate. He might not understand this concept or might express it in class terms. Thus, for example, it would forbid and punish murder. In this instance no conservative would, so far, disagree. On the assumption that murder is bad, the state should discourage it, an assumption most conservatives share with most progressives. The state enacts the conscientious beliefs of all individuals.

Next example: abortion should be permitted in most cases and that the state should subsidise it with the taxes paid by all citizens, conservative and progressive.

The hitherto complacent conservative is suddenly deafened by cacophonous bells, drums and trumpets, which shriek ‘Not the same thing at all!’ There is no shared assumption.
The hitherto complacent conservative backtracks furiously: what about ‘well-ordered conscience? You can’t murder babies and with my money.

She is desperate. She can see where this is going. She has to put forward an alternative view. The view she wants to put forward is that Politics should be enacting legislation which encourages good behaviour and discourages bad behaviour. She slumps in her chair, almost terminally depressed.
Almost terminally depressed is how I feel now. I can see where this is going.

I was going to put the other case: that Politics is (or should be) enacting legislation or creating institutions which encourage individuals to behave morally and discourages them from acting immorally.

But I almost feel myself being backed into a position which I hate: theocracy. No way. Theocracy is a system where some people take it upon themselves to know the mind of God and to legislate accordingly. That’s Islam (among other things).

It is true that there are a very large number of my fellow citizens who take the view that infanticide is a right. To my mind, that is an abomination. It is the society I live in.

Something of a digression:
Suppose that I know that my neighbour is about to perform an abortion. Suppose that I do not know anything about the circumstances of the pregnancy he is about to terminate. Suppose too that I have a .38 revolver. What does my conscience tell me to do? This does not seem that difficult a moral problem. I must not sneak up behind him and put a bullet in his head without warning. That is, I must not simply execute him. I must not put his family or any third party at risk. This is the least fun post I have ever embarked upon. The truth is that, since starting this post, I have come to the conclusion that I would have to confront him and his vile objective. With my .38 I could either demand that he swear convincingly to desist or promise him that he would otherwise be disabled or die. I’d have to do it. This post has brought me to a place I had not imagined. It may have got more fun. I’m not sure.

I don’t think I am going to resolve the issue, only to restate the problem again: what has politics to do with morality? Clearly, it is agreed that there is a connection. One side believes that the state is an actor. The other side believes that the state is, at best, a context.